The Grudge is Real
If you ever have the idea of getting on Sean Payton's wrong side, don't. Yesterday in the Superdome, it was all but obvious that Payton was out for blood. That of the Los Angeles Rams, but mostly that of Payton's former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The Saints ran up the score en route to a 49-21 blowout win over the Rams, they used trick plays, threw the ball up three touchdowns. There was no let up, no desire to let up and the Saints might have scored 70 points had there been an additional quarter of football to play. Payton was seen dancing on the sidelines, giddy with excitement. As petty and childish as this seemed, it was good to see the Saints of old, the team that used to name its score. New Orleans will need to keep playing that way to have any shot at anything meaningful the rest of this season.
Defense Continues Its Improved Ways
The Saints' defense has benefited from playing mediocre offenses lately, but you can only play the teams on your schedule and Dennis Allen's unit has steadily improved game after game this season. Against the Rams, it didn't start well: New Orleans allowed 21 points and 187 yards of offense to Los Angeles in the first half. But then the Saints defense did what has become the norm in the second half these days: they held the Rams to zero points and only 60 yards! The Saints also limited Los Angeles to 2 for 10 (20%) on third down and sacked Jared Goff three times. When the defense plays this way and the offense is humming, the Saints are a hard team to beat. Consistency has always been the main defensive issue for the Saints in the Payton era, but as of late, defense has been the strength of this team.
Run, Mark Run!
The best thing that happened to running back Mark Ingram (and the Saints) this season was a fumble in the first quarter of the game against Seattle in the Superdome back in week eight. That day, Ingram had three rushing attempts for five yards and the aforementioned lost fumble. What ensued was Payton giving the ball to Tim Hightower and benching Ingram. As Hightower began to flourish, Ingram clearly felt the need to elevate his own game and since the Seattle debacle, the Saints' running back has rushed 47 times for 382 yards, two rushing touchdowns and two receiving. Talk about a revival! With five games to go, Ingram now sits at 721 yards rushing and more importantly, a 5.3 yards-per-carry average. Having Hightower as a challenger but also to spell Ingram has been a masterful move by Sean Payton, even if unintended. RIght now, the Saints are reaping the benefits, big time!
The Offense Of Old
How fun was that??? A near fiddy-burger in the Superdome! Felt like it had been forever, and it had. The last time the Saints scored over 45 points in a win in the Superdome was November 1st last year, when they defeated the New York Giants 52-49. However, what felt even better yesterday and really reminded us of the 2009-2011 Saints was the fact that this wasn't particularly close. The Rams hung in there for a little while, but it very quickly became apparent that Los Angeles' offense wasn't going to be able to keep up with Brees and Co. Yesterday we got a glimpse of the glory years and man, did that feel good.
The Changing of the Guard
Brandin Cooks played against the Rams yesterday and Los Angeles was determined not to let the Saints' speedy receiver beat them. Smartly, Brees never threw at Cooks and took what the defense gave him. Apparently, what Gregg Williams was willing to give was rookie wide receiver Michael Thomas, who continues his amazing first NFL season: Thomas caught nine passes on 10 targets, for 108 yards and two touchdowns. On the year, Thomas now leads the Saints receivers in targets (84), receptions (65), touchdowns (7) and receiving yards (789). I'll say it now: Mike Thomas has become the Number One wide receiver that the Saints had been hoping for since Marques Colston started showing signs of slowing down a couple of years ago. Cooks will still be a big part of the offense, make no doubt about it, but Thomas is soon going to be the player that opposing defenses double-team.